(STILLWATER, OKLAHOMA / February 3, 2023) – The Stillwater Public Library (SPL) kicks off its year-long centennial celebration on Thursday, Feb. 23, from 6-7:30 p.m. with the unveiling of a pop-up history exhibit at the Stillwater History Museum at the Sheerar Cultural Center. Additional activities will focus on popular pastimes of the 1920s, including making paper dolls, fortune telling and fun "Great Gatsby" style photo opportunities.
The Stillwater Public Library was opened to the public in 1923 by the Stillwater Woman's Club in the former parsonage of the United Brethren Church.
"We’ve enjoyed researching the history of the library as a lead-up to the Centennial," said Stacy DeLano, library director. "The profession has changed drastically over the last century, and yet, we aren't so different from Stillwater's first librarians. We still want to provide the community with free, accurate information and kind and welcoming service."
Several of the activities at the Sheerar will feature some of the library's very first librarians - Harriet Woodring and Mitzi Kerns. The City of Stillwater hired Woodring in 1923 for $25 a month to keep the library open three hours per day. Mittaline "Mitzi" Kerns, SPL's first professionally trained librarian, was hired in 1928. Attendees will be able to make paper doll versions of both.
Children's Librarian Elizabeth Murray thinks incorporating an activity like paper dolls will be a fun way to include children in the festivities.
"Having a hands-on craft that lets kids use creativity is a wonderful way to get them interested in history," Murray said. "The assortment of sweet treats probably won't hurt either!"
A librarian "fortune teller" will also convene with early librarians via a Ouija board to give visitors book recommendations.
"I expect most of the suggestions from Mitzi and Harriet to be popular 1920s titles," DeLano said. "This is just a fun way to nod to the fad of psychics prominent during this period and to acquaint people with the era's literature. You may even discover an old 'new' author to check out!"
The library will also display vintage "tools of the trade" and invite everyone to guess their purpose. Those who get the most correct answers will receive a small reward. Also, visitors can enjoy complimentary coffee and an assortment of desserts, listen to 1920s music, take photos with Jazz Age props and even peruse the Sheerar's exhibits.
"We're excited to introduce the library's 100-year history exhibit at the Sheerar," DeLano said. "It helps to connect the library to the broader history of Stillwater and Payne County."
Other exhibits at the Sheerar will include "Those Who Serve," featuring military history, a mahjong display that is a part of the "Stillwater Collects" project and one about the Washington School, Stillwater's segregated school where the Stillwater Public Library established a branch in 1944.
"We don't know a lot about how the Stillwater Public Library operated during segregation," DeLano said. "But, we featured what we did know about the Washington School branch in our display."
The library's 100-year pop-up exhibit will be on view at the Stillwater Public Library and other locations throughout the year. The Library Trust commissioned and funded the display, and Trust and Library Board members will also provide refreshments for the evening.
Library Board member Robin Cornwell hopes that while celebrating the library's centennial in 2023, the public will also learn about the Library Trust and why growing the Trust is necessary to help sustain the Stillwater Public Library for another 100 years.
"When an individual or a business contributes to the Trust, they are ensuring the growth and security of the library for years to come," Cornwell said. "If we can build the Trust, the library will be able to use it to supplement its budget, which is especially important for areas where there are funding gaps, like refurbishing existing collections or improving the library's online catalog."
Learn more about the library's centennial events, its history and the Trust, including ways to donate, by visiting library.stillwater.org/SPL100.php.
"We hope that library lovers of all ages will join us on Feb. 23 to kick off this exciting year,” DeLano said. “Our patrons are the ones who ensure the future of the library. The families who pass on their love of reading and learning have made the Stillwater Public Library what it is today, and we want to celebrate them too."